EC Testimony vol. 1 : Grace and Prayer by Michiya Arakida

I am truly grateful for being able to participate in the Equipper Conference for the first time this time, and for receiving so much grace and healing. First of all, receiving this EC scholarship was the greatest blessing of all.  Transportation, accommodation, and other various expenses were obstacles for me to come from Oregon. But through prayer, I was provided with accommodation and transportation, and I was reassured that there is nothing impossible with the Lord. This EC was the most fruitful conference I have ever attended, where I was prompted to consider my Christian faith and witnessed many works of the Lord. Here, I would like to share some of the blessings I witnessed.

I joined in prayer team and also shared a testimony for the first time at this conference. Since becoming a Christian through baptism in the United States a year and a half ago, I have attended Christian conferences about four times, but I had never involved in a volunteer work at the conferences before; I had always attended as a participant. Through serving this time, I was able to experience the love and grace of the Lord in tangible ways.

When I was recruited for the prayer team, although I had been prayed for by others before, I hadn’t prayed much for others, so honestly, I thought it would be enough to just pray. Since it was also my first time participating in EC, I couldn’t imagine the overall flow or content of the prayer team. The content of the work mainly involved listening to prayer requests from participants during the EC period. Although prayer was the main focus, we faced various attacks from the enemy while gathering as a team to pray for participants and the EC. Despite this, I witnessed prayers being answered and experienced moments of fruition multiple times. Being busy with work from morning till night, I often couldn’t find time to rest properly and sometimes fell ill, but naturally, I found myself adopting an attitude of wanting to pray for others and for the EC, and the experience of my body moving was truly mystical, beautiful, and a sensation I had never experienced before. Before participating in EC, when I prayed, it was mostly formal, just uttering words, but it gradually transformed into a heartfelt prayer to truly convey my prayers to God and to connect with Him.

In sharing my testimony, although I had shared many times at conferences before, since it was mostly done in English, it was my first time sharing in Japanese since my baptism. The theme was about Calling, and I intended to share as I had done before, but from the moment I stepped onto the EC stage until the final applause, I don’t remember much, and even now, I don’t recall what I shared. After it ended, I was alone and fearful, worried that I might have said something wrong, but I received feedback from many people saying they were “encouraged” and “moved,” not because of myself, but because it was a testimony from the Lord.

The learning and fellowship in small groups were also very enriching. My group consisted of people in their twenties, all close in age, and they were the most fervent in faith and knowledgeable group I had ever seen. Even after returning to the dormitory after the evening session, Bible studies continued until two in the morning, and even now after EC has ended, there are online study sessions. Having had such deep interactions with Christians of the same generation brought me great joy, and I am truly grateful to the Lord for providing me with this group.

EC 23 was truly filled with many blessings and fruitfulness, despite facing attacks from the enemy at times. I am very grateful that we were able to face the Lord together with all the participants and welcome the year 2024. After EC, I returned to Oregon and the new semester began at university, but through this EC, I became aware of the beauty of praying for others and received a vision for Japanese international exchang students, leading to the initiation of a new campus ministry to connect Japanese exchange students with Christians on campus and to provide a place to know God through the Bible together. This fellowship has been greatly blessed, resources and places have been provided, and both non-Christian Japanese exchange students and Christian students have been provided. I pray that more non-Christian Japanese exchange students who desire to know God and more resources and Christian students will be provided. I am truly grateful to have been able to participate in EC 23.

Akarin’s Monthly Report * Special Edition

Photos left to right
* We shouted yoo-hoo to Japan at the beach in LA. Did you hear us?

* At the EC23 commissioning ceremony, we joined hands and prayed.

* My favorite spot Disneyland!

* Experienced the world that God has created, at Setsu’s devotional spot with my favorite Starbucks!


It’s been a while, readers, this is Akarin.

My one-year internship has finished, and more than six months has passed in the blink of an eye. Recently, I successfully completed the year-long challenge of my graduation research report, and although I thought I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, there’s still a mountain of things to do before graduation. Despite being busy, I’m enjoying these final days of student life.


In this report, I’d like to share blessings from EC23, which was blessed.


At EC23, I served the Lord in the Returnee Program, of which “Takumi Café” was a part. I’d like to thank everyone for visiting “Takumi Café” and those who donated the teas and snacks.

I was also grateful to be allowed to participate with a youth from my college church assignment which is part of the TCU program.


If I had to describe the blessings I received from God at EC23 in one word, I’d say “guidance”.


I’ve been praying and waiting since 2022 to attend EC. This was because I’d been interning at JCFN, the organization that sponsors EC, in order to know how God is working with each and every one of those called “Returnee Christians” who attend EC, and with each and every one of those who receive them and send them. Unfortunately, due to unexpected circumstances, I canceled my plan to attend EC22, but I believe that it was undeniably God’s plan and work that I was able to participate with the EC23 youth program in this way at this time.


Two things that changed me greatly during EC23.

First, I was reminded of the importance of fellowship with people my own age. Recently, at camps for middle school and high school students, as well as at camps organized by my denomination, I’ve often been in leadership positions, and had no opportunity to share my faith with Christians my age. However, at EC23 in the U.S., where I spent time with fellow Christians my age, sharing in small groups, praying for one another, and being encouraged by one another, I was able to face myself, meet spiritual friends, and be steadfast in my faith, spending time with God.


Second, I made a decision. Since last year, I ‘d been praying a lot about my career path after graduation and about my calling.

Through these prayers, God showed me that I want to be used by God as JCFN staff, which is rooted in the work of Christians who have returned home to Japan. On the other hand, due to my personal financial situation, I needed to find a job, and lost hope, wondering when I should submit my application as a candidate for fulltime JCFN staff and whether it was truly God’s will for me to find a job.

However, on the last day of EC, which has been mainly messages, sharing, and, above all, dialogue with God, there was a time of invitation. I was given such a clear call to seek God’s glory in whatever work I do, and I was able to honestly raise my hand and pray to God.

I was grateful that I clearly understood that after graduation I’d find a job, and once I paid my debts, I’d immediately apply to be a candidate for the position of JCFN fulltime staff and until then I’d continue to prepare.


God’s guidance was not only at EC23, but in my entire journey.

Back on December 25th, the young person from my church and I were to travel there before EC23, enjoying Christmas and the environment in LA. After arrival, we slept for 12 hours, recovering from jet lag. Although my body was also feeling a bit sore, but we spent the afternoon taking a leisurely stroll in the quiet city and ate dinner at home.

Later that evening, while driving to see the neighborhood Christmas lights I was involved in a traffic accident for the first time in my life. I was shocked to see a truck that had run a red light and hit us, then fled the scene. The girls who took us, and us were shocked, but most of all, overflowing with gratitude that our lives were spared, we were uninjured, and our car wasn’t wrecked. I was nearly in tears when a friend of the girls who came to see us said, This was not a good experience.

The next day after such a precious experience, we went to EC23. Initially I thought, “What if our journey had ended here?” But then I realized, “No, this is God’s way of inviting us to EC23 and telling us something” and I was unceasingly thankful.


I was also blessed and grateful for the straightforward testimonies of the youth and seekers at the Blessing Meeting on January 2ndafter EC23 had ended.

In addition, I stayed until January 10 at various places, and fellowshipped with many church members, as well as new friends I’d met at EC23, and with the JCFN staff, and enjoyed and was blessed until the last minute before returning to Japan.


It was a wonderful journey where I experienced firsthand, and I felt in my heart the great work of God who protects and guides me in every aspect of my life from beginning to end.

I cannot stop being excited about what God will do for me in the future.

I want to continue to hope, pray, wait, and walk in faith.

Pureppu Devotion ④ Prayer is like incense

Revelation 8:1-5

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,  and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”

As we enter December, approaching the end of the year, we have received some prayer requests from those who have been through spiritual battles. Prayer is still needed for us.

This message is to help us understand that our prayers are reaching God.

The passage we read is from Revelation 8. Before this, the book describes a grand chorus of praise to God by a multitude of angels. However, when the Lamb, Jesus, opened the final seal, there was silence in heaven. The word translated as “silence” here is the Greek word “σίγη” (sige), meaning a hush or stillness.

In that stillness, something significant happened – the sweet aroma of incense was offered. The smoke of the incense ascended before the throne of God, symbolizing the prayers of the saints. In the Old Testament, the priests used to burn incense in the temple as part of a ritual to symbolize the acceptance of the people’s prayers by God. This concept is also found in the Christmas story when Zechariah encounters Gabriel in the temple.

Luke 1:8-12

“Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.”


During the burning of incense in the temple, the people outside were praying.

Astonishingly, in Revelation 8, John sees the smoke of the incense ascending to heaven, and he understands that it represents the prayers of Christians on earth.

The idea is beautiful: our prayers, like the fragrance of incense, ascend straight to God. Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, emphasized that even groans and inexpressible prayers ascend to heaven and resound loudly in God’s ears.

Prayers ascend from below to above. Our prayers “stand before God.” And in response, there is a reverberation from above to below. The incense that ascended before God descends to earth, causing thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. This signifies the powerful judgment of God, where justice is executed, evil is destroyed, and the arrival of God’s kingdom is heralded.

The crucial point is that these events occurred after the prayers of the saints, symbolized by the incense, were received before God. Indeed, prayers have the power to move heaven and earth.

The vision that John saw in Revelation is something we can imagine when we close our eyes to pray. Our prayers truly ascend before God. Revelation, written to encourage the persecuted church facing challenges from the Roman Empire, reminds us that encouragement is needed in difficult times.

The eighth chapter of Revelation, which we read together today, encourages our prayers. It conveys through the vision that our prayers are not only reaching God but are also like the “smoke of incense.” Our prayers are a pleasing fragrance to God. The Lord desires to joyfully hear our prayers.

Now, the heavens are still open. Let us desire to lift up the fragrance of our prayers, like the smoke rising to heaven, before the presence of God.

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